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March Budget Update

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We had a lot less income to work with in the month of March than in our typical months. Because of this, I had to get a bit creative. Some things (like some savings) were eliminated; other things (like debt payments) were reduced.

There’s always room for improvement and this month is no exception. But at the end of the month we had a balanced budget (meaning, we didn’t spend more than we made – using YNAB has really helped me in that regard), so I’ve got to be happy with the end result. April will have a bit more wiggle room, so I’m excited about the new month.

Here’s how March shaped up:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 116
Water 69
Natural gas 26
Sprint (2 lines) 114
Cable/Internet 99
Car Insurance 58
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1030
Gift-Giving 40
Personal Maintenance 62
Restaurants 108
Entertainment 10
Groceries 388
Gasoline 38
Household Goods 7
Toddler purchases 53
Postage 10
Work Stuff 62
Rainy Day Savings 0
Savings Goals 300
Debt Payments 603
Total $4677

 Most of these items are in-line with expectations. But I do have a couple comments…

  • Preschool ($1030 spent): This month was a normal charge, but I referred a friend to our preschool facility, so I’m excited that next month I should have a referral credit. I’m not sure how much of a discount I get, but any amount saved will be great!
  • Gift Giving ($40 spent): This was a $20 gift for two separate people (both baby presents).
  • Personal Maintenance ($62 spent): This was $35 for a hair cut and eyebrow wax, $12 for attending a yoga class, and $15 for new eye cream and face lotion (I got cheap grocery store stuff…not sure if more expensive stuff works better? I’d love to hear others’ opinions on quality versus budget eye cream and face lotion – that stuff is $$$!)
  • Gasoline ($38 spent): Gas was so cheap this month because my husband ended up filling up the car for me while I was on my not-an-interview trip. I generally only have to fill up twice per month, but this month I only filled up once!
  • Work Stuff ($62 spent): I made a new category called “work stuff” for expenses that are related to work and can be 100% tax deductible. This month these expenses stem from my not-an-interview trip, including food the night I got into town, gasoline in the rental car, and parking costs. I’ve saved all the receipts for everything, but having work expenses as their own category in my budget will make things easier for tracking and tax purposes, too.
  • Rainy Day Savings ($0 spent): With the tighter month, I didn’t put any money aside for any of our rainy day funds (which include: 3-6 month expenses, car repairs, toddler birthday, travel/Christmas, dental/vision, annual expenses, and vet expenses). This is not ideal since many of these categories are non-negotiable anticipated expenses (like my annual expenses for car registration), but skipping one month won’t kill us either.
  • Savings Goals ($300 spent): I put $100 toward my Roth IRA fund (and then I promptly withdrew all the money I’d saved to actually open a Roth), and $200 toward my Cruise 2016 fund.
  • Debt Payments ($603 spent): Discussed more in my latest debt post. This figure represents $50 toward my car payment, $453 toward student loans, $75 toward license fees, and $25 toward medical debt. One side-note about medical debt (and the reason for the discrepancy between this figure and the one I reported in my debt update)…I was supposed to also have a $50 medical bill to pay, but I never received the bill this month. When I called the office to inquire about it, it turns out they’d processed my last payment late, so it looked like I’d skipped a February payment and already paid the March payment. It was a clerical error on their end so nothing negative was reported to my credit and no late fines or fees were assessed, but it means that my next bill is not due until April (also…my April bill will be my LAST bill for the $50/month payment! Eeeeek!!!!)

Overall thoughts on March budget

Honestly, March was tough on me psychologically. I feel like I’ve just been making tiny little baby steps lately, where I’m used to the “rush’ that I felt when I first started the debt repayment process and was making huge strides monthly. I still stand by my previous statements that I think having a lean month from time-to-time can be good for us, force us to examine how every single penny is being spent and use the opportunity to try to reflect on true necessities versus extras.

That being said….I’m ready to have some more income to toss at debt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt to only put $603 toward debt when I’m used to paying between $1500-$2500/month!! Six hundred dollars doesn’t even move the needle of what I owe – its like just treading water because it only covers interest without any extra! It made the month feel long as it draaaaagged on with its relentless 31 days (and coming on the heels of a 28-day month!)

And I wish I could say that April was going to be an awesome month, but it won’t be (we live on last month’s income, so the money we have to spend in April is from income earned in March). It will be better than last month, as we have almost an extra $1500 in the budget, but it’s not as high as I’d like (for comparison’s sake, our income this March is down nearly $2,500 compared to March of last year). Oh the joys of small business ownership. The good news is that the business has, overall, been flourishing and even when there are leaner months, we can be sure that fatter months are ahead. (Fingers crossed!)

How did you do with your budget last month? Do you have any areas you’re working on improving?


18 Comments

  • Reply Lindsay |

    Treading water still beats adding more debt. In addition to not adding any new debt now, you are still able to add money to the cruise fund and other sinking funds,so that you don’t take on any new debt then either. All of this and in your lean month! I think you are doing great and pretty soon your income and debt payments will be back up to where you want them to be!!

  • Reply Anonymous |

    Ashley, I just can’t read you anymore on this site! I have been away for a while and then caught up on your cruise plans. What???? It’s what I see over and over with you people! You have made the absolute worst financial decision with your education, truck etc. Then boom. You feel you must “show your love” to your mother with this cruise. But it is more than the cruise. It’s just that after all these debt pay-offs, you really don’t seem to understand yet! I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but fifteen years from now that student debt is still going to be hanging over you. The sense of entitlement I see with young people and finances today just boggles the mind. Spending money does not always equal happiness.

    • Reply AY |

      Anonymous, that was incredibly harsh and if you look at Ashley’s track record over the last year she has had amazing lazer intensity at paying off her debt. Yes, she has a lot of student loan debt left but (and I know I don’t know Ashley personally) if there’s anything I’ve learned while following her on this blog is that she won’t put up with 15 more years of student loans and it’s pretty insulting that you assume that and lump her in with “you people” and “young people today” and their sense of “entitlement.” Money doesn’t buy happiness absolutely, but nether does being debt-free necessarily!! I’m glad that Ashley has planned out how to make this important family event happen while still meeting her debt payoff goals. That to me is a way better life lesson and habit than just being an extreme tight wad and wasting years of family memories. Also even if you still disagree you could have the courtesy to do it respectfully.

    • Reply Sara |

      Whoa. How many ways can you be simultaneously insulting to Ashley and her age cohort? “You people” and “young people today” – what is that supposed to mean exactly? And also, what is “young”? Ashley is in her early 30’s, and definitely not a kid anymore. Calling her such is insulting and wrong.

      I don’t know how old you are Anonymous, but if you’re in the mindset of “young people today” and “you people”, then I’m guessing near retirement age or older. Here’s a newsflash for you: unless your family is wealthy or you’ve been extremely lucky with scholarships, school is really freaking expensive. And to get anywhere in life nowadays you have to have a degree. Ashley isn’t some dumb kid who spent tons of money on flashy cars, parties, bars, etc. She went to school. And now she’s a married college professor with two toddlers. It’s not like she’s spending tons of money on clothes or jewelry. She’s doing the best she can with the circumstances she has, while also trying not to put off life. Yes, she could wait years until her debt is paid off and then take the trip with her Mom, but who’s to say that would or could happen then? Time waits for no one. Sickness and death is a reality.

      Life isn’t as cut and dried as you make it out to be, and insinuating that it is is disingenuous and rude. So knock it off with the whole “in my day…” schtick.

  • Reply Julie |

    When you look back in 30 years you will be glad you didnt quit living just to get out of debt. I have seen what happens when people put off everything till they owe nothing. My parents planned many things that they would do once they retired. My dad passed away before those plans could unfold. My mom lives with regret everyday. There is a balance between paying off debt and enjoying life. I wouldnt let others who are on their high horse deter you from living life and making memories while you continue paying down your debt. Tomorrow is never a sure thing.

  • Reply Holly |

    I am new to your blog… well i spent a week catching up on all the post, This year we started a debt free journey as well. I setting our goal at 3 years and that includes at 60,000.00 in debt from credit cards to school loans to a truck.. I am so blessed to have found this and knowing that i am not the only one who life throws cruve balls at while trying to save and pay off debt… i love your blogs and i cant wait to do my journey along the way with you,,,, also looking for hints on budgets if you have any..

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi Holly! Glad you found the blog and that you find it useful! I have 3 budget tips I can share. Note, none of these are MY tips per se. They’re all tips I’ve borrowed from others.
      1. Live on last month’s income. This is a tip from the folks at YNAB (You Need a Budget) and is particularly useful for me since our family has a variable income from month-to-month.
      2. Do a zero-based budget. This is a tip from Dave Ramsey and essentially means that at the beginning of the month you assign a job to every single dollar. Every dollar has a purpose every month. This helps you maximize your income without dollars slipping away (which always happens if you don’t give it a job…at least in my experience!)
      3. Use a really good budget program. I used to use an Excel spreadsheet but found that I’d overspend from time to time (not always, but every few months I’d go over budget). When I switched to using the YNAB budget program it totally changed the way I budget. It’s been really effective for me and, although I’m still new to YNAB, I haven’t gone over budget a single time since I started using it. You can see my review of the program here: https://www.bloggingawaydebt.com/tag/you-need-a-budget-review/
      Good luck in your debt reduction journey – glad you’ll follow along with mine, too!

  • Reply Den |

    Holy cow anonymous! Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Sheesh!

    This is life – it’s not linear or clean or neat. Life is messy and wonderful and ever-changing….and you can either flex and adjust to it or become rigid and inflexible….and I believe that Ashley is doing the best she can with young kids, a uncertain career, a small business plus family and friends who are also going thru lots of changes. Every choice she has made has a consequence and if you read her posts she actually discusses the consequences of her choices and then makes the best decision for her and her family.

    And Ashley – these lean months are the ones that will really show you the value of all the changes you are making and how important the little changes are…..the extra money months are great and exciting, but won’t teach you as much….so hang in there!

  • Reply Cheryl |

    I will say this, maybe because of my age, there is no way I would save for a cruise owing over $120,000. That is just me but I see on alot of these sites people say “you only live once, have some fun, family is so important”. That is why many are in debt, too much fun, not thinking about tomorrow. Cheryl

  • Reply tami |

    The bloggers must have different readers! Ashley gets negative comments for planning and saving for a family trip and Hope gets negative comments for deciding that it is too expensive to take the family on an unplanned trip to a nine-year-olds sports competition.

  • Reply Kili |

    While I agree that there could probably be cheaper ways to spend a good time with mom & family, I also think balance & motivation is important. So if the promise of the cruise helps Ashley staying motivated in attacking debt, I don’t see that big of a problem with it.
    And about the treading water part: Hey, that’s still a lot better than going under!
    Keep going Ashley!

  • Reply AJ |

    Regarding the cruise….live NOW. Enjoy it! My father died three weeks ago, unexpectedly, at only 63. My mothers regret? Not taking a vacation with him in years because they were focused on debt. True story. And we were trying to plan something for next year with my parents after they reached their milestone. This cruise will be something to look forward to, a time to spend with family, and just sit back and enjoy yourselves. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I still think you can get your cruise costs lower, but that’s neither here nor there. 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’m so, so sorry for your loss! I cannot even imagine. No words, just thoughts/prayers for you, friend!

So, what do you think ?